BATMAN EARTH ONE REVIEW – Optimous Douche and Ambush Bug Spoil Your Fun of Discovery

 

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Publisher: DC
Reviewers: Optimous Douche & Ambush Bug
 

OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): I’m an alternate reality whore, from “What If” to ‘Elseworlds,” I love it all. But the EARTH ONE titles (all two of them now) have resonated more to me than just a one-off throw away like it’s aforementioned ancestors. These stories feel far more real. As if the Earth woke up one day, in 2011 or 2012, and BAM superheroes are real bitches. These are essentially what I wanted the New 52 to be, especially since New and 52 were mere whispers on the lips of PR professionals when SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE was released. Yes, I was giddy at the prospect of multi-verse being opened back up at the end of FINAL CRISIS, but EARTH ONE especially took my glee to a new zenith of ecstasy when I first read SUPERMAN Zuckerberg. With BATMAN: EARTH ONE we may have shifted focus over to Gotham, but every element of updating the mythology is as here and now as it was in SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE.

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hmmm.  Me not so much.  See the thing don’t like about alternate realities is that it’s kind of like the rules of magic when done badly, there are none. In alternate realities, we are immediately thrown into a familiar situation, only one or two things are different.  I’ll give it to you, the EARTH ONE books are top notch, but in the end, everyone is just waiting for the beats to happen that happened in the DC prime universe: What’s the Joker going to be like?  What’s Arkham going to be like?  When will Robin be making an appearance?

 

OD: Agreed, magic needs rules. Seems an apple and orange comparison to me though. As you pointed out without certain tent poles the book goes from a reimagining of a character to a Mark Millar deconstruction.

 

BUG: Pretty soon, when these “new and different” versions of what has come before happen, the readers get sick of it as do the writers, then they move on and retell the retelling again.  I mean, how many times do I have to sit through a retelling of Batman’s origin.  Same with Spider-Man.  Same with Superman.  I want new stories.  Not retellings of the same stories over and over.  That’s my initial beef with this entire EARTH ONE thing.  Aside from this being the first time Johns has written solely Batman, I really wasn’t interested in it going in.

 

OD: Personally I’m not sick of it as long as the reimagining is done well and rings true within the context of the new universe that’s being created. Where the New 52 dropped the ball in my opinion is that it tried to make it our world where these heroes were first appearing, but the whole 5 year before thing was rushed and not holistic enough. With only two books on the shelves out of the whole 52 line-up that were set 5 years before the entire concept got lost. And even in those books the world was still much more technologically advanced than we are now. Look at ACTION, show me a city (in the US) where a train system looks like that. With EARTH ONE everything felt like it was our world in both SUPERMAN and now BATMAN.

 

As for the tropes of Joker, Arkham and other Bat goodies, I dug Johns’ interpretation. Although we should mention Joker is not the baddie of focus here and Robin isn’t even a glimmer in this young Batman’s eyes. Making Martha Wayne an Arkham though, I thought was a delicious twist.

BUG: Yeah, I know the Joker isn’t the focus in this and neither is Robin, but you know that’s what everyone will be asking about at the Cons and on the message boards.  And inevitably it’s what people will get, because they don’t know of anything else.  And seemingly, neither do these creators who tell the same story over and over.  Seriously, enough is enough with these origins.  It doesn’t matter the tweaks that are put into it.  They’re all window dressing.  The framework is the same.  Kid’s parents are killed in an alley.  Servant steps in to raise kid.  Kid trains and is brooding.  Kid becomes Batman.  I’ve seen it all before and want to read a new story.

Now the subtle changes were interesting to me. And I don’t know if Johns did this intentionally or if this is his inner child coming out.  Alfred is elevated to hero status, which in a child’s eyes, is exactly what he would most likely look like.  Making this change seems like Johns is looking at this story through a child’s eyes.  Same goes for making Bruce a snotty kid who brags to the robber that he’s the richest kid in Gotham.  Then his parents are snuffed for it.  To me, that’s an infantile way of looking at a situation and bringing guilt to the character.  By doing that, sure it makes Batman more identifyable (much more like Peter Parker who let’s the robber go and then he goes on to kill uncle Ben), but at the same time, it makes him all the more infantile in blaming himself for something that ultimately was out of his hands.  As I said, this may be a conscious choice of Johns to handle matters in this way, but I really don’t like a guilt ridden, insecure Batman.  All of a sudden, the senseless act of violence has meaning, which kind of ruins the mystique of Batman for me.

 

OD: See I think that’s one of the things Johns didn’t change. Batman was always racked with guilt over his parent’s death. He was the one that wanted to see fucking Zorro. And on that note, good job finally shit canning the movie title. It was dated when Miller did Year One so many years ago and definitely would not have worked today.

 

As for the perpetual retelling of origins, I see this as a cyclical necessity. Now I’ll admit, in recent years this has happened far more often then is needed for that generational bridge. So I don’t see this being done for the sake of freshness and generational relevancy of the characters, but more of a marketing stratification. Mike Uslan said it best when we did an interview a few years ago. I’ll paraphrase:

 

There is no one true continuity anymore.All the houses realized a long time ago that different iterations of their heroes will appeal to different demographics. BATMAN BEYOND is a very different “continuity” than the portrait Snyder is painting of Wayne in BATMAN proper, likewise with YOUNG JUSTICE. But for me they work and work well. I hear the lament for trueness of the character, but that shit died the minute the creators walked away from titles and everything was farmed out to teams of writers.

 

Personally, this is the BATMAN I want to read because, THIS world, EARTH ONE, has never heard of costumed heroes, so it gives me a sense of freshness I think that’s akin to when Grandfather picked up Detective comics so many years ago – or what would have happened if my Grandfather was literate. I also love the format. Give me a $20 complete story every two months in beautiful hardcover versus floppies please, I’m old and I have a job, it’s cool.

BUG: My grandfather had no arms, you insensitive ponce!!!

 

OD: That’s his your cowgirl Grandma’s problem pal. Batman…stay focused!

 

BUG: No, he had arms.  And a penis, which made my father, but I’m getting off track.

 

I understand your argument and realize that the older I get, the more I have to make a decision.  Am I comfortable with a reboot every five years or am I willing to say, “OK, my Batman is gone and I don’t really want to read him any more.”  I like that Snyder is building on the history of Gotham right now.  To me, that expands the mythos so much more than reimagining it for the umpteenth time.  I understand why marketing does the retooled origin every other year, but as a long time reader, I’m kind of bored with it.  It’s interesting that Johns is doing this, given his penchant for respecting history though.

 

I agree about the Waynes going to see ZORRO being dated.  I think they could have updated it to ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE, but I think I’m showing my age referencing that one too.  It would have said a lot about Tom and Martha though if they did go see it.

 

OD: Yes, Gay Blade would have been dated as well, especially since it only stayed in theaters for a week and a half. Ahhh, early HBO, thank you. OK, so let’s look at the story for the half of the readers that didn’t abandon our Grumpy Old Comic Reader tirade.

 

Now, I think the whole damn story was spectacular, but the beginning  moments as Bruce Wayne essentially sucks ass a crime fighter and possesses a series of broke ass tools was especially engaging. For the first time in a long time I actually felt a palatable sense of danger. After all, once you’ve beat Darkseid’s Omega Beams there aren’t too many other places to go as a character. Here’s a Bruce Wayne that hasn’t done dick in crime fighting and doesn’t really know how.

 

BUG: I agree, Batman in training is an interesting way to go.  A much more interesting trip than, say, SMALLVILLE. I always thought a GOTHAM TC series would have been infinitely cooler.  That said, I think the transition from amateur to goddamn Batman was pretty fast.  I know Bruce is nowhere near the master by the end of the issue, but it appears that all he needed was a visit to see Lucious Fox to get the job done.  I think things moved way too fast in the latter half of this book and thought that the way it ended basically left us with a very close version of the Batman we know today.

 

OD: And what do we think of the reimagining of other characters? I have to admit, 2012 is the year of  Penguin. First he had the great turn in PENGUIN: PAIN AND PREJUDICE and his turn in BATMAN EARTH ONE. Almost a Michael Corleone, trying to use his ill-gotten gains to legitimize himself. When we finally get to meet him as Mayor of Gotham I was shocked to see him in that capacity, keeping his stupid umbrellas in a stand where they belong and doing all of his dirty deeds under the cover of a legitimate front. Also, nice twist with making him the demise of Thomas and Martha Wayne as a p[olitical move (ooops spoiler).

 

BUG: I really enjoyed the use of subtlety when it came to the Penguin.  Like when Batman was lunging at him and he stabbed him with the umbrella.  Sure, it’s not a shotgun unbrella, but it still gives a wink to thhe hokeyness of the character, while still making him a crafty bird.  I also really liked the sick introduction of Birthday Boy.  He seeed much more Morrisonian than something Johns usually makes up, but fit into the story well.  Again, though, I wonder had we not known who the Penguin was prior to reading this, would we be so impressed with this incarnation.

 

OD: Yeah, he just would have been another corrupt politician without our foreknowledge, but that’s OK. This is EARTH ONE baby. Now, Alfred….

 

BUG: You mean, Sam Elliot?

 

OD: I was going to focus less on the visage and more the fact Alfred is no longer genetically bound to serving the Wayne family like he came over on the Amistad. I like that he and Thomas served in I’m guessing…Dessert Storm. And I like the new look. I was growing tired of the traditional poncy butler.

 

I would say my favorite transformation though was Harvey Bullock from a hard boiled trench coat detective to Hollywood reality police star. It’s a very sensible and pertinent modernization choice.

 

BUG: Harvey was cool.  But was I the only one who got a bit confused and thought it was Harvey Dent at first?  Either way, it looks like fit and hunky Harvey will be developing his beer gut soon given the last panel.  It’d be hilarious if in Vol.2 he is 200lbs heavier and mroe like the Harvey we all know and love.

 

OD: What would be even funnier is Harvey Dent showed up in Vol 2 wearing a trench coat and was 200 pounds.

 

BUG: The introduction of Dent’s twin sister is an interesting twist, given the dual nature of Dent’s fascination with duality.  I’m interested in seeing where that’s going as well as the sneak peek at the Riddler in the end.  But again, these are just reimaginings and reinterpretations, which is interesting only to a point with me.

 

OD: Agreed, the only character I felt that was dialed in was Barbara Gordon. Sort of unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. She could have waited until volume 2.

 

BUG: It all sure did look pretty though. Gary Frank can do no wrong in my book.

 

OD: Goes without saying…hell even though Batman’s original grappling gun was broke ass on the first page, Frank made the goddamn thing look like something from one of my dreams. This level of detail officially anoints him as the anti-liefeld.

 

BUG: Yes, sprinkle a little Gary Frank on Liefeld and it shamwow’s that shit away, right quick!

 

OD: OK, cardinal rule of reviewing, as soon as we talk about one artist sprinkling another the end is definitely nigh. I’m in it to win it with EARTH ONE. If I lost my job tomorrow and had only one comic I could buy it would be this universe. It’s relevant and I have been begging for the shift from monthly floppies to complete stories delivered quarterly for years now. I’ve seen some advanced pages for SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE Vol. 2 and I can’t wait to see the thing completed. Honestly, I want DC to expand the whole universe, but for fuck’s sake do it organically. This universe doesn’t need Booster Gold, as much as I love Goldie he’s a contrivance of a time gone by. Expand, but do so with relevance to the 21st century DC.

BUG: If this were the only Bat-book out there, I’d be happy, but fortunately, there’s Scott Snyder’s BATMAN.  Right now, with the way he is bringing history to Gotham, I have to say his work edges out Johns.  But this is a good book.  Redundant and somewhat unnecessary, but fun.

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4 Comments to “BATMAN EARTH ONE REVIEW – Optimous Douche and Ambush Bug Spoil Your Fun of Discovery”

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  1. Grim_Noir says:

    Thanks for the review, guys! Looking forward to picking this one up.

    But I gotta disagree on one point: In this day and age of more and more reality television and people whoring themselves out for a buck, I think a BOOSTER GOLD: EARTH ONE would be even more relevent. I would not be surprised if the Earth One version of Booster started out on “Big Brother” or “Survivor.” Then, Les Moonves sponsoring him with CBS. And Booster moving into his own late night talk show. All while his maturity arc was running.

    All right! All right! I’m done. (The first taste is free, Didio. You’ll have to pay me to write BOOSTER GOLD: EARTH ONE, if you want more…)

  2. Loved Batman: Earth One, thought it was great, and thought Harvey Bullock and Alfred totally stole the show. But if you want to talk about characters dialed in, I was really disappointed with Johns’s use of Lucius Fox. Jim Gordon was different, Harvey Bullock was different, and Lucius Fox was … just about the same as in the Christopher Nolan movies, only younger. I’d have rather seen Bruce have to figure out how to fix his grappling hook himself, or go without it or something, than the kind of trite “this character can build/fix anything trope.” But that was one small nitpick in an otherwise great comic.

  3. jaydee says:

    I LOOOOOOVED this book .

    Douche: all together now:

    SO SOSOSO GOOD!

    @Collected : Valid point about Fox though…(I DID like that his room was the FOX HOLE)

    I enjoyed this waaaaay more than Supes Earth One, mostly because I don’t usually give a rat’s ass about Supes.

    I love me some Gary Frank, too. That man can draw some lines to form stuff.

  4. Optimous Douche says:

    Lucius was totally different, I mean his skin is at least a shade and a half lighter than on EARTH PRIME. Jeesh

    This message was brought to you by sarcasm.

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